Mom Talk: Divorce Made Me a Better Mother
Written by Naomi Segel
Photography by Photo Courtesy of Naomi Segel
Divorce can be a messy, painful process. But for many, it can also be exactly what they need to become the person—and parent—they want to be. Such is the case for mother, social worker, and writer Naomi Segel. Below, the Colorado-based outdoor enthusiast and mom of two (Ava, 7, and Nora, 4) shares how divorce made her a better mother. To read more of Naomi’s work, head over to her previous Mom Talk essay about her experience with postpartum depression.
Let’s face it, raising young children is physically and mentally exhausting work. 24 hours a day, parents are called on to meet the physical and emotional needs of children. Raising good humans is important and essential work. Yet, it is largely devalued, unappreciated, and unpaid.
For thousands of years, children were raised in community. Multi-generational family structure was the norm. Expectations were set, roles were clear, and there was not much space to stray or have choice. Fast forward to 2022 and our choices are endless. We can choose where we want to live, whether to have children (or not), and who we want to marry (or not). Clearly, there are societal constructs and norms that limit our freedom of choice, including racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and classism. These systems are woven into our society that maintain the status quo and open doors for some (white men) while limiting access to other groups.
The American ideal of individualism tells us that it’s the norm to go at it alone, and moving away from family can increase these challenges. This can lead people to feel isolated and lonely. For years I have viewed daycare, preschool, and now elementary school as my fundamental support system along with dear friends. Now, I view co-parenting with my ex as my support system.
Divorce carries a heavy stigma. When I tell people I am divorced, they often immediately say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” I tell them not to be sorry and that divorce can be really good for parents and children. I am amicable and friendly with my ex-husband. My ex is a fantastic father and my children are thriving. I know I am extremely fortunate and that this is not the case for so many. Having an amicable divorce has changed my life for the better. Having two healthy parents has created well-adjusted children who are thriving and resilient.
I feel more supported and less on my own as a single parent than I did in my marriage. Having my children half of the time has significantly decreased my stress level while increasing enjoyment and improving my relationship with my girls. I am grateful for having space and freedom. I am not constantly needed, anxious, or exhausted. I am rested and more relaxed. There is space for me to live my own dreams.
My children see, feel, and experience this energy shift. My girls see their mother as fully alive and living her best life. They know when they are with their father, I’m nurturing my own body and soul through my love of nature, reading, yoga, and spending time with friends.
As I am writing this, my children are with their father’s side of the family roasting marshmallows around a campfire on the shore of Lake Superior. A week earlier, they were with my family in New York making memories on Saratoga Lake. Although we live far from family, my girls get quality time with grandparents, cousins, and uncles along with treasured experiences and memories.
My children are thriving because they have two healthy parents who are separated; as opposed to having parents that are unhappy, depleted, and burned out. And for the first time, the work of parenting feels equal, shared, and fair.
I see many women slowly drowning; they carry the burden of professional work, domestic work, and childcare, which is often occurring simultaneously, under one roof. I know about this firsthand because this used to be me.
From my divorce I have been able to model strength, resiliency, and making time for what you love. I have found balance between spending quality time with my children and much needed time to myself. Life is messy and beautiful and that is okay. As Robin Sharma states, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous in the end.”
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